Slacker’s guide – week 4 TOOLS!

There is nothing, i think, that leaves me feeling more frustrated than ‘tools’ that are supposed to be easy to use. I think in the rush to explain to people that a tool is useful, the teller often forgets that they struggled with inferior tools before they found this New Awesome Tool. They forget that they already understood exactly what it was they were looking for and then found this New Awesome Tool and figured out what it was for. I am not this person. I have come to learning analytics with a simple desire to be able to track what happens in an open course without having to shove people in a black box. I want to track people in the wilds of the internet. I’m not exactly sure how i want that done yet… and so we look at the tools.

Slacker’s run through content
Two tools this week… Gapminder. If there was any tool that you should spend five minutes downloading to your computer… this is it. This is the plug and play impress your coworkers with your amazing mooc learning kapow tool. It’s an adobe air application on your desktop… really, no excuse here. A slacker’s delight. How useful is it? well… if you study population dynamics… or social studies or something maybe. But who cares… i looks AWESOME!

and needlebase. This is a bit more of a serious tool. I’ve included the introductory video from the website here as its better than any tour i would do. You’ll be wanting to set aside 4 or 5 hours to take a serious run at this baby. It really will scrape content from a bunch of website and pull it into a database… i just didn’t find it ‘quite’ as slick as this video suggests. I didn’t get into trying to mix and match data… which is the real power in this application https://pub.needlebase.com/actions/visualizer/V2Visualizer.do?switch=true&domain=twitter-again&startPage=1&showCheckboxes=false&rerun=false but i did build this little database by scraping a pile of content off the http://search.tourismpei.com site. A person with more energy could do something very cool with this system. It also gives you great sympathy for people who complain about data that isn’t clean… grr…

Facilitated session – Why exactly would we want to do analytics in learning?
The recording of this week’s friday discussion will be hearty food for skeptics. We took a run at talking about what can be measured, why we would want to measure it and brainstormed some ideas about how one might use these new tools to change the way that we look at structuring education. I really enjoyed this chat…

On tools
There are some incredibly powerful data tools out there right now, and as long as you can scrape the data in an organized way, there are few limitations to what you could produce. The big question remains: what do i ask? I think moving forward in this field is going to require people to start asking new kinds of questions from the data. This was certainly one of the central themes from the Friday discussion and is likely going to be the challenge confronting many the first time they look at the tools. Yeah… it’s cool… but what do i do with it? Many of the people currently touting the tools are coming from years of struggle working with inferior technology… for most of us, its a bit more of a challenge. Good luck, and please post any results somewhere i can find them :)

3 thoughts on “Slacker’s guide – week 4 TOOLS!

  1. Here’s the uber-slacker comment: were there slacker’s guides to weeks 2 & 3 and I missed them? Thanks bunches for this; I am your target audience ;) !

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